Well, I’m back from Christmas break folks, and it’s time to start the long and arduous search for the greatest films of 2017. And boy, do we have one big contender coming in to start off the calendar year.
Yesterday, The Edge of Seventeen was battling for the chance to win a handful of silverware at the Golden Globe Awards. Today, it has the far more prestigious honour of being reviewed by yours truly. And yours truly thinks that this was a film that definitely deserved the Golden Globes love and may even gain some Oscar consideration.
The Edge of Seventeen is a film about what it’s like to be a 17-year old girl. And honestly, who can’t relate with that? The film follows Nadine, a girl who never really fit in. Ever since she was a small girl she was at loggerheads with her mother and extremely resentful of her confident and well-liked older brother Damian. The only thing that kept her going was the companionship from her classmate and best friend Krista. But when Krista and Damian fall for each other and begin dating, Nadine’s fragile world collapses in on itself, sending Nadine into a spiral of self-loathing and rebellion.
Despite joking about this merely one paragraph ago, this movie was quite relatable from my point of view, and I suspect from the point of view of anyone who wasn’t exactly a social bunny going through high school. Nadine is far from a perfect girl, and she does a lot of things wrong throughout this movie, but I’d suspect more of us have gone through those patches while growing up than would like to admit it. And the movie delves into this topic in a way that can only be described as John Hughes-esque (a term you’ll hear a lot about this year, since it’s the way Marvel are choosing to describe their upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming). By that I mean we’re following a teenager that, yes, follows some of the high-school stereotypes and the film plays with that, but it never once loses sight of the fact that we’re following real human beings behind the cliques and cliches. It’s a very grounded but still whimsical and accessible film.
Maybe even more grounded and less whimsical than SOME of Hughes’ films…….
And if this movie is John Hughes-esque, then the star of the film, Hailee Steinfeld, can only be described as the next Molly Ringwald. Like in the Hughes movies Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, the lead character is, while not a bad person, a little bit petulant and difficult to deal with at times – a character that Ringwald excelled at during the Brat Pack years, and one that Steinfeld absolutely nails here. I have been a huge fan of Steinfeld since her break out debut in True Grit, but she’s not really had the chance to really spread her wings since – until now. This is a performance that is worthy of award consideration, and it really has signposted Hailee Steinfeld as a talent who will be around for a long, long time.
Also worthy of note in this cast is Woody Harrelson, who plays Nadine’s long suffering English teacher Mr. Bruner. There’s a breezy chemistry between Harrelson and Steinfeld that allows for some great banter between the two, as Nadine vents her frustrations at her teacher and Mr. Bruner comes back with witty and sarcastic remarks of the kind that only Harrelson can get away with. His screentime isn’t huge, but Harrelson becomes something of a scene-stealer in this movie and had my entire theatre busting a gut.
The cast is rounded out by veteran actress Kyra Sedgwick and young up-and-comers Blake Jenner (Glee, Everybody Wants Some!), Haley Lu Richardson (The Bronze) and Hayden Szeto. Harking back to the John Hughes comparisons, the entire supporting cast acts their characters in the way in which Nadine interprets them, rather than how they actually are. It’s subtle, but as Nadine’s view changes, so do the performances of the supporting cast and while it might seem jarring to some to see the performances change, I found it quite effective.
This is a very funny movie, and at times a very emotional one, but it never gets bogged down in trying to force emotions down your throat, as coming-of-age movies can sometimes do. Everything feels real, and there is depiction of mental illness (Nadine’s mother is on anti-depressants and this is treated with respect), but the filmmakers continue to give humour a bit of room to exist, even when everything in Nadine’s world seems helpless.
That said, the film does suffer in a very, very minor way from the inevitable trappings of following a teenager at the height of their teenager-ness (I’m fairly sure that’s the technical term). At some points in the movie, it does feel like Nadine is going to start dragging on the audience due to her questionable behaviour at times. But it pays off at the end, so I can’t complain too much.
If you saw my Top 10 list of 2016, you’ll notice that the top 2 movies, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Sing Street were centered around young lead characters that really struggled to fit in with the world around them, much like this movie. I don’t know if this is just a genre that Hollywood is doing really, really well at the moment or if it’s just a story trope that I never realized I was such a fan of, but I am giving a score to this film that’s almost as high as those last 2 movies.
I’m not sure why these types of films appeal to me. It’s not like I’ve ever had a problem fitting in with society…. (Pictured: A perfectly normal person)
4.9/5 – a coming-of-age movie about a sulking teenage girl that made me both laugh (a lot) and cry a manly tear at times. I never thought I’d write that sentence, but there it is. An amazing start to 2017.
If you aren’t already, make sure you are subscribed to this blog or are following my Facebook page as later this week I will be debuting a new series of “Retro reviews” looking at everything from B-movie nonsense to big budget blockbusters (but mostly B-movie nonsense) from years gone by. It won’t be as heavily promoted, but you won’t want to miss out on all these reviews of movies that no-one has ever heard of!